Mien of Thailand

Population and Geographical Distribution

The Mien are a sub-group of the Yao in China, and they originated from Southwest China. There are over 34,000 Mien living in 173 villages in North Thailand. Some are found in Laos (21,000) and Vietnam (531,000) with the majority still in China. There are about 1 million Yao living in China. The Yao found in Thailand are the Yiu Mien, one of the major Mien groups.


Linguistically, the Mien language belongs to the Miao-Yao family. It has been rendered in Thai-based and romanized script. The Mien, however, have a tradition of writing based on Chinese characters.


The Mien combine two religious beliefs: animism and Daoism, as it was practiced in the 13th and 14th centuries. The National Statistical Office in 1988 reported 32% Buddhist, 37% animist, 26% Buddhist/animist and 5% Christian. The Daoist rituals are expensive, and the Mien appear to spend a great deal of time struggling to save enough money to afford the various ceremonies, such as weddings, merit-making and death ceremonies.


The Mien economy was previously based upon shifting cultivation of dry rice, corn, and small quantities of opium poppy. Today, the Mien are establishing farms and are more settled.

Christian Missions

OMF began working among the Mien in North Thailand in 1952. Today, a team of OMF missionaries continues to work among the Mien. One OMF missionary is currently preparing a new translation of the Bible in Mien. Having completed the New Testament and the Pentatauch, she is now translating the rest of the Old Testament. Christian Mien radio broadcasts are also being aired.


There are 14 church groups that meet in three districts: North, Central and South. As the villages are small, the average congregation is around 20 adults. For many years, the main problem in the Mien church has been nominalism. Recently, however, many appear to have come into an understanding faith, but the church groups are still characterized by a general lack of commitment. Promising young Mien Christians leave their villages for the larger towns in pursuit of tertiary education and employment.